How To Get Your Car Repaired After An Accident

car crashThere are usually two components to every Maryland automobile accident claim: bodily injury and property damage. Bodily injury refers to your medical expenses, lost wages, pre-impact fright, pain and inconvenience caused by an accident. Property damage refers to the property that was damaged because of the collision. This includes minor things, like the cost to replace your glasses because they were destroyed by the airbag. It also includes major things, most notably, the repair or replacement of your vehicle. Here’s what you need to know about getting your vehicle repaired.

Who is responsible for fixing your car?

The person who is at fault for the collision is responsible for paying to replace or repair your vehicle. Sometimes, the person who hit you will admit fault to their insurance company, the insurance company will agree, and they will negotiate the cost of repair or replacement very quickly after the accident. Other times, the other person may claim that you were at fault in the accident; or he/she might not call the insurance company; or the insurance company will want to perform a more extensive investigation by contacting witnesses or police. In those situations, the negligent party’s insurance company might not admit liability right away, or might even deny that their insured was at fault. When that’s the case, they will not pay to repair or replace your vehicle at that time.

When the other side will not agree to pay for your car within a few days, it is oftentimes best to go through your own insurance so you can get back on the road as soon as possible. Your insurance policy may have a provision for collision, which means that your insurance company will pay to repair or replace your vehicle after you pay the deductible, which is often $250 or $500. If you pay the deductible, and the other side’s insurance company later admits fault or loses at inter-company arbitration, then you will get reimbursed for the deductible. It can be frustrating to have to pay that deductible, especially when you were not at fault. If you pay it and are not reimbursed, inform your lawyers so they can include it in your automobile accident lawsuit.

What about a rental car?

The same analysis applies to a rental vehicle. If the other person’s insurance company admits liability, they will usually pay for a rental vehicle for a reasonable time after the collision. There is no hard and fast rule on what a reasonable time is, but we recommend that our clients try to get out of a rental vehicle as soon as possible. Especially important is to end the rental car use within a couple of days after the other side’s insurance company makes an offer for the property damage. The reason is that a court will likely believe that any delays by you in negotiating the property damage or accepting the property damage offer might have increased the need for a rental car–a need that the other side’s insurance company should not have to pay.

If the other side’s insurance company does not admit liability, you should talk to your insurance company about whether you have a provision for rental car coverage in your insurance policy. You may have rental benefits through auto club memberships like AAA, or through AARP or other associations. If not, you may have to pay for your rental car yourself. Your lawyer can try to get you reimbursed for your rental expenses, so keep track of all of your payments and save your receipts. But the same rule applies–the longer you are in a rental vehicle, the harder it is to recoup those rental expenses. It is important to purchase a car or repair your car as quickly as possible.

Total Loss

If your car was damaged beyond repair, or if it was an older model and the repair value exceeds the market value, insurance company might declare it to be a “total loss.” In that case, they will not agree to pay for repairs to your car, but will instead pay you for the fair market value of the car. Fair market value is the amount of money you could have received by selling the car on the market immediately before the collision. Insurance companies have their own ways to determine fair market value, but it is usually close to the values placed in the Kelley Blue Book and the NADA Guides.

Those are good starting points for your car’s value, but keep in mind: if you have had any major work to the car, or any significant modifications, the value may be higher. Of course, the most important factor is the odometer reading and the condition of the vehicle.

If you still owe money on the car, the risk is that the amount you owed on the car might exceed the fair market value. In that case, you might get a check from the insurance company for the property damage, but not have enough to pay the remaining payments. In this situation, your insurance company or the leasing company may have provided you with Gap insurance, which makes up the difference between those amounts.

If your car was an older model, it likely had a low market value. The fact that it was a useful automobile, or the fact that it had sentimental value, will not increase its fair market value. Maryland law is not ideal in this way.

Diminished Value

A damaged car that can be repaired may have a lower value than an undamaged car of the same year, make and model. The difference between those two values is known as diminished value. You can usually make a claim for the diminished value of your vehicle if it is within three years old.

Contact Us

At Posner & Cord you will not be charged any fees for your routine property damage claim. If you were involved in a Maryland automobile accident or have any questions regarding the damage to your vehicle, call us at (410) 252-0600, or fill out our online contact form.